Students walking on campus

Teamwork on and off the field

Alexa Zimbelman and Ben Wong

What work have you done together?

Alexa: Ben and I had the opportunity to work together as lab partners, examining rat brains. We are both athletes so teamwork is an analogy that comes naturally to us. It really does feel like a team in the Science Center. If someone doesn’t get it, we will sit at the whiteboard for as long as it takes for everyone to understand the concept. You also develop great friendships along the way.

Ben: Our professor recognized the way we worked together and asked us to be the lab leaders. In doing so, we worked to create the ideal research environment, not just for ourselves but our classmates. The connections you make at North Central are really special and carry on long after your class or even college career is over.

Alexa Zimbelman and Ben Wong in lab

Why did you both choose North Central? 

Alexa: I initially came to North Central to play volleyball. I planned on being a pre-med major with intentions to go to medical school after but I fell in love with the neuroscience program instead. My research experiences on campus led me to pursue graduate school and I was recently accepted into a neuroscience Ph.D. program. So what began as an interest in playing volleyball resulted in graduate school. North Central provides an environment for this type of exploration and opportunity.

Alexa Zimbelman playing volleyball

Ben: I, too, initially came for an athletic program. North Central has an outstanding football program, we won the 2019 NCAA Division III National Championship. I also had a strong interest in science and the academic facilities and labs were another great incentive to choose North Central. Additionally, our location is optimal for students, like me pursuing a career in healthcare—there are so many incredible hospitals both locally and accessible by train in Chicago. I am currently beginning the process of applying to medical school.

Ben Wong playing football

Alexa, what is unique about a North Central education?

The small class sizes provide opportunities to make meaningful connections with your professors. They notice when you don’t attend class and will reach out to make sure you are okay. They have an open-door policy and strongly encourage students to pop in to chat about anything. The connections I made with professors at North Central helped me to get where I am now.


Ben, how would you describe the student body at North Central?

North Central is a great environment. Everyone on campus is friendly and very dedicated to their work. There have been countless times when I’ve walked into the science center to study, sometimes at 10p.m., and I see a lot of familiar faces. It’s a great environment for students to push each other to learn and grow both personally and academically.


How have you both grown as individuals at North Central?

Alexa: If you would have told me freshman year that this is where I would be, I wouldn’t have believed you. It is hard to put into words how much I’ve grown during my time here and that’s a product of the academic rigor at North Central. My professors constantly encourage me to be better and provide opportunities and experiences that I otherwise would not have had.

Ben: I’m a completely different person than I was when I first came to North Central. I am more ambitious, always trying to get a little better every day. That mindset is encouraged and supported by the incredible faculty at North Central.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

Alexa: I’ve had an incredible experience at North Central. My time here has ignited my passion for becoming a professor at a college just like North Central. The labs and research I’ve both witnessed and conducted alongside my professors has inspired me to do something similar in the future. I want to create the same environment my professors gave me for another generation of students.

Ben: I plan on becoming a doctor. Beyond that, my education at North Central has inspired me to be more than just a physician. I want to be an advocate and a positive role model for my community. The leadership positions I’ve been afforded by North Central faculty and my football staff have encouraged me to strive to use my platform as a physician to better my community. These leadership roles have allowed me to grow and helped me decide that I want more than just a good career, I want to make a difference in my community.

Alexa Zimbelman in lab

As you are approaching graduation, what advice can you share with students just starting their college careers?

Alexa: The biggest thing is to get to know your professors, especially if it’s in a class you may have difficulty with. But even more so if it’s a class that you’re super interested in. Talk to your professors and get to know them. Go to office hours. At North Central, there are no silly questions. Everyone wants to talk with you, hear your ideas and open doors to new opportunities.

Ben: Get involved with something. Often, students worry about being homesick or not finding their place, but there is something for everyone. If you identify your interests, talk with a faculty member—they can be your guide throughout your time at North Central. My professors help hold me accountable and share opportunities I otherwise wouldn’t have had.

Alexa Zimbleman in lab